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Thursday, 6 October 2016

Vegan Black Bean Chilli - (it's Vegan, Organic, Gluten-free & Sugar-free!)

Vegan, organic, gluten-free, sugar-free black bean chilli
with a side of cooked wild rice, guacamole (recipe on this link) & a side of tomato salsa (recipe on this link)

If you are wondering "why?" check out the previous post (this is the link) and you will understand what madness had fallen on me to have taken up such challenge "Vegan, Organic, Gluten-free and Sugar-free all at once!" and not just for a few days or weeks but for a complete 4 months!!!

So as I was telling you in the previous post, when you take up such a challenge, one that is so outside of your comfort zone, and especially outside of your cooking intellect - we all know that is not the type of food I cook or have all the time - you end up having to figure out what to eat! It was a daily struggle at first "what was I going to eat?" then even if I thought of "what", the question goes straight to "how" how am I going to make that food taste good? Be satisfying and not feel like a bunch of boiled vegetables! Almost tasteless. This was especially true because I generally do not prefer shallow flavours, in fact I would say my signature style in cooking is creating deep, full and whole-bodied flavours. The same was true to my preference even when it came to plant-based (no animal products to aid in the depth of flavour) I still wanted to taste deep, good flavours.

That was not going to have me throw the towel and walk out on this. I was determined, in fact I felt this was an exercise much needed to enhance my cookery skills too. I took it on and I stuck to it, and honestly all it took was two weeks of trials and experimentations (3 meals a day and a few snacks) and I was on it like I was born to cook that way! It was interesting and cooking was not boring or a chore whatsoever, it was a challenge and I loved every bit of it. Best of all, I was really creating deeply flavoured, very satisfying meals, very unlike the ones I have tried based on recipes and descriptions on social networks and the internet, most of which to my amazement turned out rubbish food despite the beautiful pictures and ravings about flavours! I always thought those looked so good that I wanted to try them, but when I did they were mostly tasteless and so many were truly inedible! I am sure you have come across such experiences and understand what I mean!

That is why I thought I should actually share some recipes here, because I know some of you out there are looking for good recipes for these diet requirements, and I want to make sure you have some good recipes to try at home to feed yourselves well :)

So as promised, I will be sharing some here, and I will start with one of my favourites. This black plant-based bean chilli is amazing. The flavour is fabulous, especially when you, as instructed in the recipe, use my Smoked Shatta (smoked red chilie sauce). It really gives it that kick and most importantly the depth I was talking about. (you can order this shatta and any other of my Organic Mooneh Essentials online and we deliver anywhere in the UAE. details on this link.) Also the use of the dark chocolate, fills up the depth of flavour. It is the one ingredient that no chilli should be made without! Really, try it and taste the difference.
You might think: "Wait a minute chocolate has milk and is not vegan!" yes generally it does when processed and more so in low percentages. But nowadays you can buy vegan chocolate from most stores (but that will be sweetened, make sure to check that part out) and here is a tip for you: 
100% dark chocolate is purely cacao. It is bitter yes, but it is pure cacao and that is vegan (cacao is a plant). Remember we are sugar-free here so opt for 100% dark chocolate. If that is nowhere to be found, just use 100% cacao powder (not the drink mixes! the pure cacao).
Finally before we go to the recipe, the most amazing part about this recipe is that it is quick, easy, fuss-free, whip up in less than 30 mins (after work, put on the stove then go slip into something comfortable and come back to a ready meal)!! how cool is that (those of us who work know and appreciate that bit, and those of us who are mothers cooking for families everyday know how good this is, and those of us who are free and have all the time in the world: well you don't really get to complain! :)) )
Tip: This mixture can freeze up to 3 months! make a big pot, enjoy dinner, pack in portions and freeze to heat anytime you like! 
No excuses!!! Do it!

Here you go, the recipe:
(click it to enlarge)

Couldn't read my handwriting?! No worries watch it below it is only 2 minutes long!
Short & sweet.

Have you been looking at gorgeous food pics on social lately? (you have, we all do that) but have you craved the descriptions, only to try the recipe and find it tasteless? Really I would love to know if you have had such experiences, or if I am just fussy! Share with me and allow my mind to be at rest knowing am not alone!! :0

"If it doesn't challenge you it doesn't change you" I love this quote

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Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Bring it on! - Vegan, Gluten-free & Sugar-free all at once!

Vegan, Organic, Unsweetened Apple Sauce
Organic Mooneh Essentials by Dima Sharif for special diet requirements

I don't just assume. I experience to know. I believe there is no other way to really truly know. Everything else is just assumptions and probabilities therefore at best tattle!

A few months ago, and you may remember from my instagram posts, I took on one of the food trends. The "vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free" diet! I never did for losing weight reasons, or for following trends, I did for three main reasons:

The first: because I was complaining from lack of energy. At that time I was getting tired and felt without energy very often and was recommended a plant-based diet (kind of detox for a while) and the doctor swore by it saying "you will feel massive amounts of energy if you eat right".

I still have this now because it is just simply irresistible
thanks to my amazing Almond Butter!
The second: I was also trying to figure out if I had any intolerances that I was not aware of, really for the same reason as the above, and the same doctor said that some intolerances - especially if not severe - may not show in tests and the best way to find them is to go off certain foods for at least 4 months and then reintroduce them slowly and see how the body reacts.
So all in all it felt like a plant-based (Vegan diet) was a way to figure all that out and detox my body for a while eating loads of vegetables and greens, also cleaning it from the terrible ingredient; Sugar! not to dismiss testing out the "gluten" theory.

Which brings me to the last and, to me, very important third reason: I had been reading and listening to all people talking about "Vegan Diets", "Gluten-free Diets" and so on and while I did before that take on the whole "eat less meat" action (I generally do not consume loads of meats of any type, I naturally eat more vegetables than any animal products) but it felt like for 4 months I can actually put all this to the test and strictly stick to this way of eating and then speak from experience rather than hearsay.

Also I always like to cater to all food requirements and I believe to serve these requirements you have to actually understand them and that can only happen by experience.

So off I went and stuck to this plan for 4 months.

This was a really good Thai Vegan Red Curry

The findings

Please note that I am not recommending following any type of eating plan or diet. I am simply sharing my experience fully aware that different bodies react differently and have different dietary needs. Please do not follow any diets without consulting with your physician first.

I must admit, throughout the four months I felt massive amounts of energy. I felt great! Really fresh, crisp, clear and so focused, no joke, even I was very surprised. I never once felt hungry, I felt I could eat as much as I wanted and felt over all very healthy. I did not gain/lose weight, I remained the same throughout but my body felt leaner in general.

I did struggle at first with compensating the protein, iron and calcium intake. These are very important nutrients that any vegan (plant-based eaters) have to watch out for. You must make sure that you get these nutrients from non-animal sources and that they are served with the ingredients that facilitate their absorption. That is really why you must consult with a nutritionist and a physician before you take up this kind of diet.

among the first foods I cooked for this diet
It was easy, fast and not very creative,
but that was just the beginning
The most struggle though was: "what do I eat", but that gave me a whole new challenge, which I eventually appreciated a lot, because it gave me a new way to look at the foods I cooked very often, and also pushed me to work on completely new recipes with a completely different approach (a different mind set). It was a true blessing for kitchen creativity. At home, I was eating fantastic and very tasty foods. With that said though, it was a huge challenge eating out on all fronts. I never found anything that fit the requirement, mind you, if it was vegan, it was not necessarily gluten free, or sugar free and so on... and also when I did find anything to go with what I needed, it was all rubbish food! I was surprised to see how terrible and tasteless the on-the-menu very good looking smoothies, granolas, and vegan items were, and mostly how inedible a lot of the vegan recipes out there are; despite the gorgeous photos!!! I spat more than I swallowed at first, and figured I could not eat out. So the real challenge was I really could not eat anything I did not cook myself!

For 4 months I only drank unsweetened iced-teas when I was out and if I ate I had a garden salad dressed with olive oil or the odd vietnamese vegan rice roll without any sauces (sugar)... and as 'necessity is the mother of all inventions' I had to put all my thoughts together to create fabulous, mouthwatering and satisfying meals. I did and ate perfectly good and satisfying meals at home.
Best of all I have a huge repertoire of these recipes now, from which I will share with you here. And the bestest best is that I have a full line in my Organic Mooneh Essentials dedicated to these requirements and offering you flavour-packed ingredients to help you in your plant-based diet.
Vegan, Organic, Unsweetened Hazelnut Butter
Organic Mooneh Essentials by Dima Sharif for special diet requirements

After the four months passed...

Everyone I spoke with, I told "I don't think I want to change back".

Oats, Nuts & Seeds Granola with Goji Berries
Organic Mooneh Essentials by Dima Sharif
for special diet requirements
I really felt so good I wanted to keep going that way forever... untill... I left for the summer holidays and of all places I went to London then France (the two places where we all know food is great). While in London there were a tad more options than here in Dubai, still it was almost impossible to tick all the boxes. I tried to stick to it at first, but it just proved impossible!

In France, I totally gave in! no more vegan, nor gluten free! I kept eating healthy throughout the whole trip, the most naughty foods I ate were really in one or two bite portions and not very often. However, I expanded like I was eating 10 burgers a meal! You see, this is the thing about diets that remove whole food groups out of the list. The minute you are back to consuming those, it's like you never did anything at all! In fact it is worse, because had you done nothing at all, you would have been better off!

The long story short, I came back shocked at how my body performed! I gained a lot of weight and really did not eat much to justify it!

Now am thankfully back on track, eating healthy, eating wholesome, all food types except sugar, which truly wreaks havoc in my body, and going to the gym 5 times a week. I do continue to consume very moderate amounts of meat as I did before I took this up (for health and environmental sustainability reasons) and I do have plant-based days/meals. And finally, I have adopted the good parts into my regular diet (seeds, nuts and super berries). I must tell you, there is nothing like this lifestyle. The energy is there, the good food is there, the overall health is doing better than ever (as per my doctor) and very importantly the options are there too.

I guess the most important of what I had learned throughout this experience is really: what you get your body accustomed to is what your body will be giving you back. Take things out and your body throws them out of its functions, bring them back in and your body gets confused! Really "balanced eating and activity" is all the healthy eating you need to do so long that you don't really have any intolerances, as those need a permanent special diet. As is my case with sugar!

Now tell me,

Have you tried and tested with these new food trends? What was your experience like?
When you decided to go for it, how challenging was it for you to eat good food? Eat out? Cook at
home? Do please share your thoughts with me, I would love to know.

Coming up on Thursday: 
my Vegan, Organic Black Bean Chilli Recipe 
for your meatless days

"Keep it simple in the kitchen. If you use quality ingredients, you don't need anything fancy to make food delicious."   - Curtis Stone 
(I so agree to this)